PC vendors such as HP and Compaq Computer have been focused on trying to decrease the costs by selling systems directly to customers, as Dell already does. Peripherals are but the latest products to come under consideration for direct sales.
For HP, the move helps sell more products while preventing inventory problems that crop up if sales grow more slowly than expected. The company has pursued similar arrangements in the market for office copiers.
Dell, in turn, can either buy HP printers and scanners directly from the company or through a distributor and have the products shipped to its large corporate customers, as previously reported.
The company will be able to offer HP's LaserJet 4000, 5000, and 8000 printers, as well as color LaserJet printers and some high-end scanners as a part of the arrangement. Dell's own sales force will offer the products to customers in the government, business and education markets.
"Printers have traditionally sold through the reseller. There isn't a sales channel comparable to Dell for buying printers direct, so with more users wanting a total solution, Dell is moving to offer them that," said Robert Fennell, printer market analyst for Dataquest. HP is simply responding to users' preferences for buying through a variety of channels, he added.
HP has been selling printers in conjunction with Dell since the beginning of the year on a trial basis, according to the companies, a practice that has drawn the ire of resellers. However, Jacques Clay, vice president and general manger of HP's commercial division, has said that these are opportunistic arrangements. HP joined Dell on accounts that were already solidly behind the direct PC vendor.
HP acknowledged that conventional resellers are the "dominant suppliers" of HP's printers. The company said it is currently developing a Web site for resellers that would quickly provide access to leasing and finance programs in order to spur sales.